North Korea Signs `Encouraging' on Nuclear Program, Monitor Says

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(Bloomberg) -- North Korea has shown “encouraging” signs it’s ready to implement key nuclear restrictions ahead of a planned meeting with Donald Trump, according to the head of the monitoring organization that may be assigned to verify closure of its atomic-bomb test site.

Inspectors at the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization are prepared to deploy within a week and could install high-precision detection equipment ahead of the planned June 12 summit, Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo said in Vienna. An agreement is still pending with North Korean officials that would allow the CTBTO’s technical experts to verify the Pyongyang regime has irreversibly collapsed mountainside tunnels at its Punggye-Ri test site.

North Korea’s disarmament envoy, Han Tae Song, told a UN conference earlier this week that the country will join international efforts to ban nuclear tests. That sets up the Vienna-based CTBTO to “stress test its international monitoring system” on the ground in North Korea, according to Zerbo.

The worldwide network of sensors deployed by the Vienna-based CTBTO act like a global echo-cardiogram, detecting noise variations in the land, air and sea that could signal an atomic bomb detonation. Its seismic stations on the Korean peninsula pinpointed the location and magnitude of North Korea’s six previous tests.

After the last atomic detonation in September 2017, CTBTO sensors detected 30 aftershocks, according to Zerbo. While some scientists have used those measurements to conclude the test tunnels had collapsed in on themselves, monitors haven’t detected signals of a controlled detonation that would permanently seal the site, he said.

CTBTO officials won’t participate in the planned North Korean media show at Punggye-Ri later this month, according to Zerbo, a geophysicist who worked with Anglo American Plc and BHP Minerals International LLC before being named head of the CTBTO in 2013.

Should diplomats strike an agreement allowing CTBTO access, verification will take “weeks” and could involve setting up “micro-arrays” of noble gas and spectral imaging equipment within a 50-kilometer (30-mile) radius of the test site, Zerbo said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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